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    This Texas Valedictorian's Speech On Abortion Rights Is Going Viral For All The Right Reasons

    "We cannot stay silent."

    Paxton Smith is a graduating senior at Lake Highlands High School in Texas. She's also been named valedictorian — meaning she's the highest academically achieving student of her class, and she got to give a speech at graduation.

    Paxton in her graduation robes
    Christina Smith

    Paxton submitted a speech for pre-approval, as per the school's policy — but on the day of graduation, Paxton pulled out a new speech she'd written about the "heartbeat bill" that was recently passed in Texas.

    Sergio Flores / Getty Images

    The bill, which bans abortions after six weeks even in cases of incest and rape, has been the subject of protests and pushback across the state. Going to high school in Texas, a state with a large conservative population, Paxton told BuzzFeed that students do sometimes talk about politics, depending on what's in the headlines. However, she said reproductive rights issues have not been in the news much in her area, even with abortion rights under attack.

    In the now-viral speech, Paxton explains the bill before speaking to her peers about how little time six weeks is, stating that most women don't know they're pregnant by then.

    Tim Rogers / YouTube / Via youtube.com

    Speaking to BuzzFeed, Paxton said that she made the decision to throw away her pre-approved speech to talk about the recent bill about 10 days prior to graduation, discussing how she couldn't focus on an assignment because she was so upset about the bill. Only her parents knew about her plans — they expressed apprehension due to the controversial nature of the topic, but eventually became supportive.

    Paxton then goes on to talk directly about herself and her peers, stressing the dreams they all have for the future.

    Tim Rogers / YouTube / Via youtube.com

    You can hear the audience begin to cheer at this point. Paxton told BuzzFeed that the response from her classmates and on social media, as well as from staff, has been largely positive.

    She stresses how terrified she is that those dreams could be taken away, meaning her hopes, aspirations, and efforts for her future would no longer matter.

    Tim Rogers / YouTube / Via youtube.com

    While Paxton didn't participate in any political clubs in high school, she did participate in a service club that taught her what an impact just one person can have, which was part of the inspiration propelling her to give this speech.

    Paxton finishes her speech talking about choosing this day to bring up this issue — on a day where people "will be the most inclined to hear a voice like mine, a woman’s voice" — because the problem cannot wait.

    Tim Rogers / YouTube / Via youtube.com

    After her speech, Paxton said that she was pulled aside by a couple of women she believes were affiliated with the school, who told her they were considering holding her diploma. However, that didn't end up happening, and she hasn't heard from the school since then.

    The video — which was posted by @thehippiechick — quickly went viral on TikTok and then moved over to Twitter, where people were extremely impressed with Paxton's bravery and eloquence.

    Paxton Smith bypassed what was “approved” to do what was right. May our established leaders find the bravery of this young woman. https://t.co/fXpxsx2CF7

    Twitter: @IAmPoliticsGirl

    Paxton said that she's only seen two negative comments, and that the online response has been almost entirely positive. She's received a ton of media attention, and even has her super-supportive parents taking some interviews for her.

    One person called Paxton braver than "the entirety of the Texas legislature."

    Paxton Smith is braver than the entirety of the Texas legislature. https://t.co/h2xugWGded

    Twitter: @debsbasement

    Even author Jodi Picoult weighed in, saying "we stan a queen."

    We stan a queen. Presenting Paxton Smith, speaking with courage, integrity, and intelligence. #abortionrights https://t.co/DjtK0B5WQI

    Twitter: @jodipicoult

    Paxton told BuzzFeed that she hasn't had much time to sit down and digest her newfound virality, but that she's excited that this will get more people talking about and aware of abortion rights issues in Texas and across the country.

    Sergio Flores / Getty Images

    When asked what she hopes people get from her speech, she said that she hopes people will vote in local and state elections, as these often have the most impact on bills like this, and don't receive enough media attention.

    Thank you so much, Paxton, for speaking on harmful abortion laws that threaten the well-being and agency of women in the US. You can watch the speech here (it starts about five minutes in):

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com

    And if you're wondering about Paxton's super-bright future — she's heading to UT Austin in the fall and plans to continue her activism and passion for women's rights, as well as follow her passions of media and music. Best of luck to you, Paxton, though we doubt you'll need it!

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